So, I have a cold and I FEEL like I have a cold. I consider this a good sign that my white blood cells are doing their job and that we are still “kickingleukemiainthebutt”. I typically have to take my temperature frequently to make sure I don’t have a fever, indicating that I have an infection that I can’t “feel” that I have. If my temp reaches 100.5 I go to the hospital, which results in a 3-5 day stay with IV antibiotics. Let me just say that it is nearly impossible to get an accurate reading on a temp that specific. The first time I got a fever it was quite the comical scene: my mom and I both taking our temp on 3 different thermometers on each side of our mouth (wiping down with antibacterial wipes in between, of course) to try to determine if I needed to go to the ER. For about 10 minutes we did this, each thermometer registering something different every time, varying between 100 and 100.9. Not helpful. In the end, I ended up being admitted to the hospital for the next 5 days.
I think it’s interesting to note that I took my temp while I was watching a movie, not because I felt bad, but because I happened to look over and see the thermometer and mindlessly picked it up and stuck it in my mouth. There was nothing going on in my body to indicate that something was “off.” This reminds me of a book a read in college by Paul Brand, “Pain; The Gift Nobody Wants”. It had fascinating stories about his studies on people with leprosy. People (namely, ME) tend to think of leprosy as a disease from “Bible times” that caused your skin and sometimes body parts to fall off. If you had it you were shunned by your family and friends and had to yell “unclean” if anyone came near you. You were a physical and emotional mess, an outcast in society. Lonely. Suffering.
Paul Brand gave me a new, more medically accurate understanding of what leprosy actually is. In a nutshell, it’s the INABILITY TO FEEL PAIN. He told story after story about numerous people who had lost an appendage because the small signs of danger didn’t alert their body of the bigger danger because they couldn’t feel pain. There was a man who lost a finger because, as he laid in bed at night, a rat came into his hut and started gnawing on his hand. Because the man couldn’t feel the pain of this and continued sleeping, the rat eventually chewed off his whole finger. Another man came in with severe burns on his hand because he hadn’t noticed that he was holding on to a HOT pan while cooking his dinner. There were worse stories, like a child who would use his disease to manipulate his mother as he threatened to “hurt” himself if she didn’t do what he wanted (I believe he would threaten to chomp on his own finger, at least to the point of bleeding), but I will stop here. I think you get the point. A LITTLE pain is the gift God gives us to alert us to potential BIGGER pain.
It’s important to remember this in the physical realm, but also in the emotional/spiritual realm. How many times have we lamented a situation we have “gotten ourselves into” because we ignored the small signs of distress. Now we are drowning in anguish.
If we had listened, paid attention to the “check engine light” of our souls, we might have avoided the regret and suffering we find ourselves in. This observation isn’t meant to cause us to feel guilt and shame over our past, it’s meant to remind us to pay attention, and dare I say, celebrate, the subtle signs God lovingly provides to protect our hearts from catastrophic consequences.
Pain is a gift we want because without it, greater suffering is inevitable. A verse that has helped me in the past few years is from Isaiah 38…verse 17 says, “surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” What is happening in your life that you have interpreted as pain, possibly even punishment, but are actually signs of God lovingly guiding and protecting you?